Posted by: Dan | September 9, 2007

Church and Government: The Pragmatic Angle

Stated simply this is what I would like to propose:

If we were to invest the same amount of time and energy into pursuing change through the Church that we invest into pursuing change through the government, then the payoff would be exponentially greater.

Sure, I won't deny that positive change can come through the government (or through the rather limited avenues for change that the government allows). However, it takes a great deal of time and energy to create even a little change, and big changes only occur very rarely.

I suspect that when we work through the Church we will be able to create much larger changes with much less time and much less energy.

Let me provide an example of what I'm talking about.

Homelessness is obviously a major problem in Canadian urban centres. Affordable housing might very well be the greatest need right now in places like Vancouver and Toronto. Pursuing change through the government requires a great deal of lobbying, of protesting, of capturing (and holding) the attention of the media, of rationalising, and of imposing constant pressure upon politicians, corporations, and policy-makers. Engaging in that process requires a great deal of time and energy and the end result is always minimal. The government creates 50 more units of affordable housing, or offers to open up 40 more shelter beds (in the winter only), that sort of thing. Given that a city like Toronto has 50,000+ homeless people, this is akin to putting a band-aid on a severed artery.

So, what is the alternative to this that the Church offers? Really, it's quite simple. We take the words of Isaiah 58 seriously and “bring the homeless poor into our homes.” Rather than begging and pleading with the government, we simply become the change we seek elsewhere. Rather than wasting a great deal of time and energy asking the government to open new homes, we simply open our homes to the homeless.

And so on and so forth. Rather than waiting for the government to eradicate poverty (something that it will never do), we can become the sort of community that is described in Acts wherein a form of sharing exists that leads to the observation that “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4). It's all rather simple (which isn't to say that it is easy). All we need is a little imagination and a little courage; a little hope, a little faith, a little love.

Why waste all that time and energy elsewhere? Really, I can't help but think of something Jesus once said (brace yourself, Stephen & Co.!) in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Of course, the “dogs” and the “swine” are the institutional Powers — Businesses, Parties, and Laws involved (not the people, like Stephen & Co., whom I respect a great deal).

[I will now run for cover, and convince myself that I am right regardless of what is written in the comments.]

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